KRISTOFFER ØRUM CREATES NARRATIVES THAT RUN COUNTER TO SOCIETY'S DOMINANT NARRATIVES OF FEAR AND DESPONDENCY.
MARIE BERTHELSEN | ARTICULATE #24 | JULY 2020
Where do you start when trying to define Kristoffer Ørum? His artwork makes up a strange and odd universe. A combination of everyday objects, which are immersive and highly tactile. Ceasing to experience his art live would be a loss. It simply needs to be felt and touched. His exhibitions feel like a wonderland, one you can move around in while letting feelings of astonishment and awakening fill you. His art is difficult to grasp in few words, as it includes several artforms, such as (but not limited to) visual design, sculptures, light design, technological devices, software, and videos. Ørum tries to explore our digital technologies and their narratives. In his words, he is creating narratives that run counter to our dominant narratives of fear and despondency in our society.
Ørum´s world of art is all about directly engaging with it. Rather than observing the world from an analytical armchair, he explains that he prefers to work with a hands-on perspective when creating images. He begins his process by focusing on working with what he does not understand and cannot completely control. Ørum prefers an imperfect finish even when he has defined the origins and details of his work, rather than a flawless and industrial look. According to Ørum, the societies industrially produced objects have been made with much effort, but we do not know how they were made, and the origins by which they get obscured. And all this despite us co-inhabiting the world with it. Ørum explains how this relates to societies contemporary manufacturing and has a large impact on both the world and ourselves as individuals. He believes that paying attention to imperfection and possible misuse helps to demolish this. Maintaining the means of his production is central to his work, and this is due to often working outside of an art context, and therefore often without economical funding. Therefore, he believes you are in a stronger position when being self-sustained - sometimes even with a zero budget.
There are many aspects of the world Ørum continually tries to explain. The more he examines the world and himself the more curious he gets. He explains how every project he completes reveals new intriguing questions and offers him new opportunities to question his own assumptions. His craving to understand and engage with the world is something he hopes will never be satisfied.
The internal logic and idea of his project is what determines what media Ørum will employ. For every project a new skill, media and ofcourse idea, is in play. On the other hand, Ørum underlines how his past experiences have shaped both his skills, interests, resources and thereby also his medias. He says that in general, the artist’s choice of media is made before he or she conscious about the decision, which is due to previous experiences. For instance, Ørum was part of the early computer culture in Denmark and spent many years immersed in the hop-hop and graffiti scene before entering art schools: “Today I think you can see traces of all three subcultures in my work: From spray-painting beetroot juice on the wall to misusing surveillance technologies or 3d printing face-sized noses”. The last couple of years Ørum has worked with digital technologies due to it touching several parts of contemporary life. He points out that it is hard to find a contemporary text unaffected by spell-checking, photoshop, or a building not shaped by software. He explains that digital tools are continually co-authored in the world, which rubs against our ideas of technologies.
The more specific inspiration for his artwork is typically a moment when for instance a beetroot looks like his Russian grandmother’s nose or when a wireless router looks like a crayfish. He holds on to these misreadings and use them as frameworks to think in subjective and less conventional ways. Such as reflecting on his own Russian heritage, or the similarity between the way nationalistic politicians address invasive animals and immigrants. Ørum’s following work will be done by doing a lot of research, reading open resource research papers and lurking on dark web forums looking for ideas and theories.
This is done in order to find something too complex or weird for mainstream media. For instance, Ørum found old CIA reports that analyze Putin’s face for traces of mental illness. His goal is to set up a process that might surprise himself and make him develop away from his own preconceived notions of beauty and reason. However, when all comes to all, in every project there is a narrative that holds its distinct parts together so that the viewer can follow the projects chronology. Ørum hopes the artwork will become coherent enough to be accessed by people other than himself. And he hopes anyone who encounters the work, feels as if they are included in a process of re-thinking the world. It is his goal to let the viewer reconsider their own understanding of the world, rather than adapting his.
Ørum tries to understand the effect of the elements and materials in his artwork. What happens physically and mentally when this or that material is used? How much information is the artwork trying to get across? What does the viewer notice first? The question is not if art is good or bad, but rather which effect the composition has and perhaps also why.
Groups of live role-players and groups of artists such as the Moscow conceptualists is also a place of inspiration for Ørum. And being surrounded by hardworking and engaging colleagues both in and outside of Denmark helps him in this process. And maybe more importantly, he says that art is a collective endeavor that few artists like to admit.
Everyone relies on borrowing ideas and methods from each other. Going even further, there is less of a distinction between the inside and outside of the art scene. Everyone produces aesthetic works, whether they consider them artworks or not. From homemade clothes to hackers, that is where he gets most of his visual stimuli from. This is the everyday aesthetic practices of people who do not consider themselves artists.
This article about Kristoffer Ørum takes part of magazine, ARTICULATE #24. Read, download or order your print version of the full publication below